New economics report urges leaders to phase out fossil fuels

major new report launched today by economic experts in New York City shows how a swift transition to a low-carbon society will unlock a raft of benefits for communities, businesses and governments while reducing the risks of dangerous climate change. The report from the New Climate Economy is called “Better Growth, Better Climate”, it comprehensively dispels the myth that climate action comes at the cost of people’s living standards and calls on government and business leaders to urgently phase-out fossil fuels.

The message ringing out from every page of this report is that there are no strong arguments left to justify sticking with outdated fossil-fuels. As such, the authors call for all countries to aim for a global phase-out of unabated fossil fuel power generation by 2050. These economic experts call for high-income countries to commit now to end the building of new unabated coal-fired power generation and asks middle-income countries to limit new coal plant construction now and halt new builds by 2025.

The report is based on a year-long study conducted by research institutes the world over, from China, India, the US, Brazil, Korea, Europe and Africa. The findings are being spearheaded by leading names in finance, business and politics who argue they provide compelling evidence that world leaders should urgently ramp up the low-carbon transition to unlock a cleaner, healthier society run on renewable energy which can also limit the impacts of climate change.

The report findings substantiate this argument by showing that as well as reducing climate risk, phasing out fossil fuels and cutting carbon will mean new and better jobs, cleaner air, improved health, lower poverty and more energy security. The economic minds behind the study use the building of climate smart cities as an example. They argue that cities that are better connected and more compact with good public transport links will save the world more than US $3 trillion over the next 15 years and significantly improve quality of life.

New Climate Economy emphasise that the low carbon transition is already well underway. A growing number of successful businesses, cities and countries are actively lowering climate risk, while creating jobs and healthier, happier communities. Thanks to rapid technological innovations and fresh investment in infrastructure unlocking the benefits of climate action is more affordable and feasible than ever, according to the authors.

The report urges government and business leaders to seize the day. Between now and 2030 US$90 trillion will be invested in cities, land use and energy infrastructure around the world and the investment choices made now will shape the future - will locking us into either a low- or a high-carbon society. The authors dismantle the argument that a clean energy future costs more to achieve and they even lay out a neat policy prescription to help leaders along the low-carbon pathway.

These include:

  • integrating climate change into core economic decisions and accelerating the low-carbon transition;

  • a strong, lasting and fair international climate agreement;

  • phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels and agricultural inputs and incentives for urban sprawl;

  • introducing strong, predictable carbon prices;

  • substantially reducing the costs of low-carbon infrastructure investments;

  • scaling up innovation in key low-carbon and climate resilient technologies;

  • making connected and compact cities the preferred form of urban development;

  • stopping deforestation of natural forests by 2030;

  • restoring at least 500 million hectares of lost or degraded forests and agricultural lands by 2030;

  • accelerating the shift away from polluting coal-fired power generation.

This report, dubbed “Stern 2.0”, comes just days before hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets at more than 2,000 events in 150 countries around the world to show their support for a low-carbon transition. This comes also as more than 120 heads of state gather in New York for the UNSG Climate Summit.

The summit is a chance for world leaders to re-engage with climate change at the highest level and pledge the commitments that will speed up the transition away from fossil fuels that is already underway, driven by communities, businesses and investors who see the benefits of a clean energy future. It is a chance for government leaders to begin realising the vision outlined in this report.